Jig’s Journey ~ Texas Here We Come

I recall mentioning earlier this year that I was going to try and post more often. I keep meaning to. Really. Other things keep getting in the way. But I’ve decided that to keep you entertained *cough* and me motivated, I’m going to begin chronicling mine and Jig’s journey to Nationals. It will be a good way for me to keep track of our progress…or lack thereof, and push me to get out there and train.

So, herein lies the first installment of…um…Jig’s Journey. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I took Jig to Nationals last year and, I admit, that was pushing it for a young dog without a lot of miles on her. It wasn’t horrendous, but it wasn’t much to write home about either. We’re going again this year because Nationals are vacation for me. A chance to meet up with people I don’t see often enough, watch a lot of dogs work, and just spend a week amongst Aussies and their people. I mean, how much better does it get than that?
I received confirmation of my entry, but don’t know for sure if we’re in. If we are, we’ll be running Started ducks and cattle, and Open sheep. Open. Yikes. Shudder. Eek! (Here’s where I have a slight panic attack.) So much to do. So little time.

*glances at calendar*

Ergh, that was a bad idea.

Moving on…one of the biggest hurdles I need to overcome with Jig is her take pen. For those who aren’t familiar with ASCA Stockdog trials, a take pen is the pen from which the stock are…well…taken. It’s the first chance you have to make or break your run. Picture yourself walking into a roomful of strangers with the intention of telling them they have to leave when they are perfectly content to stay where they are. Go charging in, screaming and yelling, slapping them in the forehead, and demanding they exit might get the desired result, but those folks aren’t going to be too keen about you from then on. Going in calmly and quietly, politely asking them to vacate the pen and trust you to not bring them to any harm will prove much more effective. Diving in, insisting they leave, then promptly putting anyone attempting to do so back in…

That’s where Jig and I are at the moment. It ain’t purty. HOWEVER, I have made some progress. Last week I did some work in the pen, moving her around, getting her comfortable, lying her down, having her walk up, hold, back out. When she gave me what I was looking for I got her around the back side of the sheep, had her lie down, took a deep breath and opened the gate.
Side note: This is where things generally go to hell in the proverbial hand basket (bonus points to anyone who can explain where that phrase originated).

The herding gods were smiling on us, though. A combination of good sheep and clear communication and I got Jig to walk up just enough to push the sheep out, closed the gate while she was still in the pen, broke her off and told her how wonderful she was. Then we went out and gathered the sheep, did a bit of fetching, played the game again. If she did particularly well, I’d let her follow the sheep out and cover for me.

Last night I did basically the same exercise but used my free-standing pen. This had several benefits. First, no traps. My normal take pens are 16’x16′ but with only a 12′ gate, which means there is a 4′ corner trap. The free standing pen is 16’x16′ with a 16′ gate. Second, no extra pressure. My pens are butted up one to the next and there are usually sheep in all of them. That means pressure on all sides. The free-standing pen is…free standing. Third, totally different draw.
This worked awesome. It also gave me a chance to practice ‘there’ and having her walk straight into pressure to put them in the pen. Which she did very well, I must say. Overall, I finished last night with some confidence that maybe we will be ready by November. Okay, technically October since I plan to trial her a bit before we head to Texas.

Yeah, don’t look at the calendar again.